At A Georgia Camp Meeting


At A Georgia Camp Meeting (1897 )

Composed by Kerry Mills, played by The Leake County Revelers (click below to play).


Written as a “two-step, polka or cakewalk” it is in reality a perfect characteristic cakewalk. Kerry Mills, born in Philadelphia in 1869, was perhaps the most popular composer of popular American music in his lifetime, stated: “This march was not intended to be a part of the religious exercise, but when the young folks got together they felt as if they needed some amusement. A cakewalk was suggested and held in a quiet place – hence this music.”

Mills’ career reflected the changing trends in American popular music in 1897 to 1915. He was a skillful and prolific composer, capable of writing in any popular idiom. His most lasting composition might be “Red Wing.” [He also composed “Whistling Rufus.”] Mills’ compositions were the antecedent of classic ragtime and they indicate a bridge between the old two-step danced to Sousa’s “Washington Post March and Two Step” and the emerging styles of black-derived dance called the cakewalk.

In Mills’ music, unlike the grotesque ‘coon’ songs of the era, the African-American is a medicum of dignity and individuality. Mills’ sheet music covers are carefully conceived, executed and designed to emphasize the title without resorting to a complex apparatus of symbolism. “Georgia Camp Meeting” in its time was the biggest of hits and is based on the Civil War tune “Our Boys Will Shine Tonight.” In “Georgia” one can see the influence of the cakewalk ancestor – the march, and it is band music, not written for the keyboard idiom.

“At A Georgia Camp Meeting,” played by The Leake County Revelers.

Recorded April 16, 1929, Atlanta, GA

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